Well...it was bound to happen eventually.
It took until late November, almost early December, but the New England Patriots finally lost a game to drop to 10-1. In an NFL week where all the games seemed to go the wrong way, the Denver Broncos overcame a 14 point 4th quarter deficit by taking advantage of turnovers, playing stifling defense, and leaning heavily on the running game. Credit where credit is due; Denver needed to run well and remain opportunistic, and that's exactly what they did as they escaped with a 30-24 victory.
In years past, this loss would have stuck in my craw. I would have been up half the night stewing and staring at the ceiling and would be pretty grumpy all week long. And while I'll probably still be grumpy all week long, it's not going to have anything to do with the result of this game. I honestly couldn't care less about dropping one to Denver at this point. It's really all about getting healthy for the playoffs, so as long as there are healthy bodies on the field come January, nothing else really matters for me. New England seemed to have dodged a bullet with both Rob Gronkowski and Dont'a Hightower not expected to miss too much time, and because of that life is significantly better than it usually is following a Pats loss.
Plus, there are plenty of positives to take away from this game. Here are just five of them.
No more 19-0. Admit it; you were thinking about it, weren't you? You can go ahead and refuse to admit it, but in the back of your mind you were watching these 2015 Patriots play and were visualizing this team running the table and you know it. I don't think I can state enough how much I didn't want this team to run the table and how happy I am that there is now a number in the loss column. Sure, it would have been nice for that L to be another team, but whatever. 10-1 is just fine by me. Now that the Patriots lost, we can stop with the 2007 comparisons, stop with the F U tour, stop with the Invincible nonsense, and get back to reality as we take one game at a time, focus on winning the AFC East, and then turn our attention towards a bye.
Affordable loss. The New England Patriots can 100% afford this game. Granted, it was an AFC opponent that makes things a little harder in terms of securing a playoff bye, but at the end of the day this loss doesn't really count for too much. If anything, this loss is going to bring everyone to attention and get everyone back on track, especially after some much-deserved reaming out from Belichick this week. Given the way the league unfolded this past week, this one is very easy to put behind us. New England still has a one game lead on the rest of the conference, and the Bengals and Broncos still have to play each other. Furthermore, the remainder of the games on New England's schedule are fairly winnable. So no big deal.
Expected Loss. Granted, it wasn't as expected a loss as it was back in the offseason when everyone thought Peyton Manning was still going to be competent, but I feel like most of us had this game chalked up as an L for one reason or another. Whenever you can visualize the loss and see it coming, it's always a whole lot easier to deal with.
Obvious problem. This loss is on the injuries, plain and simple. The Patriots kept swapping guys in and out, there was no continuity of gelling, and the offense became very vanilla as a result. All the credit in the world needs to go to the Broncos and their defensive gameplan, but when there aren't any viable weapons, your only real receiving threat isn't allowed to get open anymore, and the pass rush has its ears pinned back, it becomes more understandable why New England dropped this one. The Broncos got the Patriots at the best possible time, and they did what they had to do. If these two teams meet again, it will likely be in Foxboro and there will be some healthy bodies on the field, on both sides of the ball. I just hope one of them is wearing the number 87.
Sometimes the bounces don't go your way. Denver fumbled twice and recovered them both. New England fumbled once and lost it. Some huge gains were negated by penalties. Denver just got the bounces that, in a game like this, you need to get in order to win. That isn't a complaint, nor is it an excuse; that's just football. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn't. That's just the reality of the situation. One or two plays goes the opposite way here, the Pats win this game. When you can't get a thing going offensively, you're on the road, and it still takes a few bounces to chalk up a loss, you can take a lot of solace in that.
Honestly, this article could have been just one sentence long: Gronk and Hightower are going to be OK. Not much else really matters. But I'm already 100% over this loss, and hopefully you all are too.